If exit remarks are any barometer, it can truthfully be said that not everybody loves Raymond.
The word I most heard in connection with Ray Romano’s big-screen debut was “boring” — and that just about sums up my own feelings. I had never encountered Romano before, so I had no real preconceptions. Now, alas, I do.
For the uninitiated (I cannot be the only person who refuses on principle to watch a show called Everybody Loves Raymond), Romano is kind of like a really, really bland version of Joe Mantegna — but with a very, very large whine factor tossed in where his personality should be. Not that anyone could have saved this tired attempt to revive the type of comedy Frank Capra made back in the 1930s, but a more appealing lead than Romano sure would have helped. At least when Capra made his often-corny celebrations of the common man, he had “common men” like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable or James Stewart — and not Ray Romano.
For that matter, he had thoroughly professional “bad guys” (who usually turned good by the last reel) such as Edward Arnold and Walter Connolly. Mooseport has a seasoned professional in this capacity, too: Gene Hackman. But it’s Hackman at his living-up-to-his-name worst, seeming to regard his moments in front of the camera as just so much annoyance while he waits to pick up his paycheck. Assuming that Hackman read the screenplay, though, it’s hard to blame him. The story is flat, predictable and interminable.
Romano plays middle-aged hardware-store owner “Handy” Harrison, who can’t commit to marrying his longtime girlfriend, Sally (Maura Tierney, Insomnia). Not only does he waffle on his relationship, but he doesn’t even seem to realize that Sally’s waiting for him to pop the question — thereby proving himself fully on the level of the kind of cosmic stupidity only known in sitcoms.
Into this setup comes former U.S. President Monroe Eagle Cole (Hackman) — recently divorced, on the run from his venal ex-wife (Christine Baranski, Chicago) and soon the town’s mayoral candidate, a position Cole accepted only because he thought he would be running unopposed. Of course, no one knew that ol’ “Handy” was also throwing his hat in the ring.
From this — and from the added “spice” of Cole’s lecherous intentions toward the long-suffering Sally — hilarity is supposed to ensue. It doesn’t. What we get instead is about a half-dozen mildly amusing jokes (the best ones involving Secret Service agents) and an ocean liner’s worth of tedium. The usually uninspired direction of Donald Petrie is here in full-flower, and even a high-power supporting cast — Baranski, Marcia Gay Harden, Rip Torn, Fred Savage — can’t get the damn thing out of first gear.
Long before the end of the film, you’ll wish you’d followed the example of the baby moose that, early into the proceedings, chewed through its rope and wandered off.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke